A Cooking Class You Can Do in PJs

The video tutorials on one of America’s most popular cooking sites yielded delicious results, but we’re not entirely sold.

I’ve donned an apron, a sign that things are getting serious. 

A sheet of plastic wrap covers a couple of chicken breasts laid out on a sheet pan. I pound the meat into ½-inch cutlets. I pulse sliced bread and Parmesan cheese in my food processor to make crumbs. I run through the steps of flouring, dipping and coating and am just about ready to cook my chicken Milanese in oil in a heavy-bottom skillet on my stove. But  first, I turn back to my laptop on the counter, cued up to America’s Test Kitchen’s cooking school, to make sure I haven’t missed anything. 

Virtual cooking classes are convenient, and after adjusting to not being in a classroom and able to raise my hand to ask questions, I find I actually like it. Unlike a live class, you can watch a virtual one again and again – eliminating the fear of missing something. I signed up for a free two-week trial of ATK’s “school.” I’ll be billed $19.95 per month if I decide to stick with it. Just a few minutes into a class – one of 344 on their site – I see the main advantage: The classes are technique-driven. The instructor zeroes in on each step – for example, the exact way to dip your cutlet in flour and pat each side so there isn’t excess flour and you avoid gummy breading. 

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You can search by recipe type, ingredients and level of difficulty. Lessons focus on a specific recipe, like pepper-crusted beef tenderloin, or a broader theme, like classic sauces or cooking in cast iron. 

For my chicken Milanese, I switch from watching in video mode to studying each step by photo, mostly because I’ve watched the video a few times through before starting my recipe and while the instructor is knowledgeable and thorough, she’s a dud in terms of personality. The site also includes ATK’s extensive reviews of kitchen tools used in the recipes, a gallery to post photos of your dish and a self-evaluation quiz to gauge your success. If you upgrade to “instructor access” ($39.95 per month), you can email a photo of your final dish to the instructor for feedback. 

After cooking my chicken cutlets to a deep golden brown on each side, I drain them on paper towels and even though they are still hot, I can’t hold back from cutting into one of the pieces and taking a bite. Crispy, juicy yumminess! 

One thing I miss about in-person classes is the ability to ask questions of the instructor in real time. But the fact that I can access this class whenever I want (at 9 p.m., in my PJs!) is a bonus. In the end, I decided not to spring for the paid membership, mostly because I wouldn’t watch enough of the classes to make it worthwhile. I’m also old school in that I prefer to use cookbooks! But before my free trial expires, I am definitely making ATK’s ultimate homemade ravioli.

Enhance Your Expertise 

Hone your skills with these local virtual classes. 

MILWAUKEE PUBLIC MARKET Jan. 14: Hearty Beef and Noodle Soup with Ranch Bread; Jan. 21: Adaptable Feast. 60- to 90-minute classes start at 5:30 p.m. $10 per class.  

SHULLY’S CUISINE & EVENTS Live cook-along format. Ingredients are included. Topics range from fresh pasta-making to winter comfort classics. Class length: 60-90 minutes. $30-$50 per class. 

VILLAGE CHEESE SHOP Jan. 13: A class about the important role women have played in crafting artisan cheese and wine (plus, a tasting). 60-minute classes start at 5 p.m. Cost: $35. 

This story is part of Milwaukee Magazine‘s January issue.

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Ann Christenson has covered dining for Milwaukee Magazine since 1997. She was raised on a diet of casseroles that started with a pound of ground beef and a can of Campbell's soup. Feel free to share any casserole recipes with her.